Monday, March 14, 2016

Ask JKM a Question: To Sequel or not to Sequel?

A reader named Jason writes:

"- Which movie that didn't get a sequel most deserved one?

- Which movie that did get a sequel (or franchise) should have just been left alone?"

Jason, those are two great questions.  I shall compose two lists, to answer with!  These are the answers I came up with immediately.  I may want to re-visit both lists in six months.  

Movies that didn't get a sequel that most deserved one:

The Black Hole (1979)

The probe ship survived the journey through the black hole and came out in a new universe.  What is the nature of that universe? And would the hellish Reinhardt/Maximillian synthesis return to challenge the characters?  I've wanted a sequel to The Black Hole since I was nine years old!

Flash Gordon (1980)

This is a genre movie that ended, literally, with a question mark. Did Ming survive his impaling? What will happen to the unruly kingdoms of Mongo without the strong man to lead them?  Will Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov ever get home? Again, this is a movie I've desired a sequel for a long time.

The Thing (1981)

John Carpenter's classic bombed at the box office, but went on to become one of the most acclaimed and influential horror films of the last thirty-five years. The 1982 film ended in an ambiguous fashion, leaving open a series of possibilities and options for a sequel.  Was MacReady the Thing? Was it in Childs?  Were they both infected?

The Thing should have been a horror franchise.

Buckaroo Banzai (1984)

We were promised a sequel over the original's end credits, and longtime fans of hero should finally get a chance to see "The World Crime League" follow-up. 

Dune (1984)

I would have paid good money (and still would, today), to see David Lynch oversee trippy adaptations of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Another Carpenter choice. Jack Burton is a great comic hero, and deserved a second film to establish a franchise. Each sequel could have taken on and parodied another action genre (as the original updated and commented on martial arts movies).  In my opinion, it still is not too late for a legitimate sequel.  Kurt Russell looks great, and could star in a sequel.

John Carter (2012)

One of the great fantasy movies of this decade, destroyed at the box office by poor marketing and the inexplicable choice to leave "of Mars" off the title. The Burroughs' novels offer endless possibilities in terms of adaptation choices.  

Bottom line: we should be watching new John Carter movies every three years or so. We won't but we'll absolutely get new Star Wars and Marvel movies until we're puking our guts out from going to the well too often.

Movies that Got a Sequel but Should Have Been Left Alone

Superman II (1981).  I love Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel, and I loved the first two films in the original Superman franchise. But Superman III (1983) and Superman IV (1986) are really bad movies that only harm the character and his franchise. They are cheap and campy, and generally embarrassing.

Independence Day (1996). I understand why the original film was such a blockbuster. The thrill of seeing the Earth under attack by giant alien saucers, its landmarks destroyed, was great popcorn fun. 

But what precisely does a sequel offer? More of the same?  Is anybody out there jones-ing for an ID4 Part II so they can see what happened to the original film's off-the-shelf disaster character tropes?

Paranormal Activity (2007).  So, how many of these films have there been now? Parts I through 4, then The Marked Ones, and then, The Ghost Dimension?  

I would give the original a mediocre rating, and I rather liked Part III. Other than that, this is a series that has worn out its welcome. And I say that as a hardcoe fan of found-footage horror films.

The Hobbit (2012). So, the filmmaker here took three really long movies to adapt a relative short book? 

You could actually read most of The Hobbit in the time it would take you to sit through three, nearly three hour films. 

Imagine that instead of three over-long, undisciplined movies, we had gotten one really good Hobbit movie directed by Guillermo Del Toro?  It would have been a nice after-dinner mint following the full meal of the Lord of the Rings movies.  

Instead, we got two three-course meals in a row, and I never feel the need to eat from the Tolkien cupboard again, at least in terms of the cinema.

Thanks for the question.  Don't forget to ask me questions at!


  1. I waited a long time for Talon's next adventure: Tales of an Ancient Empire. It finally came out in 2012 about three decades after being teased in the closing credits of The Sword and the Sorcerer... and it was astoundingly wretched. Not in a glorious so-bad-it's-good way like the first film either.

  2. John absolutely agree with all your thoughts on this. Those films deserved a sequel with franchise potential, unlike the others that were not worthy at all.


  3. As loath as I am to suggest anything even remotely resembling "stealing", I have to recommend the Tolkien Edit of The Hobbit. It still isn't the lighter kids book that Tolkien almost smashed to bits in his second edition, but it's a heck of a lot closer than that flying mess that includes "Uncanny Valley Pretty Boy" (Legolas).

    Legolas was so creepy that the avatar's presence in a scene nuked my Suspension of Disbelief so hard that I could barely get it back again before he came back.

    The Hobbit is why Peter Jackson desperately needs a producer with final control for every project from here to eternity.

  4. No other on your list do I agree with more than Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League. Equally, though, I must dispute The Thing. Accessory 2011 prequel experiment aside, I just don't see the 1981 original as franchise worthy. And I doubt Carpenter ever did either. The way it ends on a note of (nihilistic) ambiguity—such a denouement, in statement and overall attitude, is part and parcel to the film's lasting greatness. The story of those men and of Macready, his purpose as a character, is played out in full by the closing credits; following up on the actual fate of him and Childs, no matter how twisty-inventive, would do nothing but dilute as much. I think it's best left, most affecting, as a standalone piece.

    In place of, regarding Carpenter, how about Ghost of Mars? To me that one pretty much ends on the cusp of a much larger narrative where Lt. Ballard and Desolation Williams must either save Mars or get the hell off it once and for all and, in tandem, where they as characters were ripe for further thematic possibilities: the sheriff and the outlaw archetypes as an established buddy team.

    Streets of Fire
    Time Bandits
    The Rocketeer

    And above all, Dredd. It's franchise-ready abandonment is practically a crime.

  5. Some great points here and I couldn't agree more about a Hobbit movie that could have worked like a desert as a tight disciplined single film. Well said.

    And I have had John Carter (Of Mars) on my radar since your review. I still have yet to see it, but one day I will.

    And I love your bold pronouncements regarding the Star Wars franchise. I mean it. It needs to be said. I was very disappointed in the new film. The universe feels tired to me. I'm glad it makes people happy, like the superhero films, but sadly, the once magnificent Star Wars is quickly succumbing to the super hero excesses that I deplore. Perhaps I'll be proven wrong, but I'm not feeling it.

  6. Michael Giammarino5:00 AM

    Though it's not the same, and I would have preferred these sequels to play out on the big screen, The Black Hole, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China have seen comic book sequels. The Black Hole sequel actually came out soon after the film did. I'm assuming they'd already come up with a a treatment and didn't want to see it go to waste.